A British couple living in Spain who thought that they would be stuck in the UK under France’s Covid restrictions are now hopeful that they will be able to transit France to return home.
Before New Year, several British people who live in other EU countries, often as beneficiaries of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, were not allowed to transit France by French border police at the Eurotunnel.
This is because only EU nationals and French residents could enter France under the Covid restrictions on essential reasons for travel.
However, the French government then announced that: “A large number of British nationals residing in an EU country have travelled in good faith to the UK for the festive season and are experiencing difficulties in reaching their country of residence.
“Faced with this situation, instructions of tolerance have been sent to police officers at the borders with the United Kingdom in order to allow these nationals to transit through France to reach their residence in a country of the European Union after this Christmas and New Year period.”
ℹ️ Déplacements du #RoyaumeUni vers la France :— Ministère de l'Intérieur (@Interieur_Gouv) December 30, 2021
Une consigne de tolérance est mise en place pour faciliter le transit des ressortissants britanniques par la France pour rejoindre leur résidence dans un pays de l'#UnionEuropéenne , durant les fêtes de fin d'année. pic.twitter.com/msG8CgBSlC
This was provided that the people in question had completed their journey to the UK before December 28. However, the statement did not add when this period of ‘tolerance’ would end.
Travel Update— Eurotunnel Le Shuttle (@LeShuttle) December 30, 2021
Passengers travelling from the UK, with residency in other EU countries under the Withdrawal Agreement, can again transit through France to return home. Subject to their journey to UK being completed before 28 Dec 2021.
This comes into force immediately. pic.twitter.com/ntFHK4MRlO
Sandra Crabbe and her husband John left their home on Spain’s Costa Blanca on December 19 and drove through France to spend Christmas with their family in Newport, Wales.
“Our return ferry is not booked until January 23 because we’re staying for my son-in-law’s 40th birthday,” Mrs Crabbe told The Connexion.
“We didn’t see our loved ones last Christmas, and that was the first time I hadn’t seen my grandchildren in six or seven years. So that was hard.”
Considering that their journey to the UK had taken place before December 28, it appeared that Mr and Mrs Crabbe would be able to transit back through France on their return to Spain.
‘We did not know what to do because we’ve got out dog with us too’
However, Mrs Crabbe then saw that there had been another change, detailed on Brittany Ferries’ website, where a notice reads: “With effect from 4 January 2022, British citizens holding EU residency will no longer be permitted to transit through France by road to reach their country of residence in the EU.”
“I rang Brittany Ferries and they said that at present they couldn’t let us drive through even though we had no intention of stopping in France,” Mrs Crabbe said, adding that as their ferry was due to arrive at 08:00, they would be able to transit through to Spain in a single day.
“We just didn’t know what to do because we’ve got our dog here. We could have perhaps flown back and sorted our car out later but that’s impossible with the dog.
“We couldn’t have been stuck in a better place because we are with our family but while it’s alright living with family for a month we do like our own space!”
However, France then announced a slight relaxation of its travel restrictions, adding two new essential reasons to its list of pressing grounds for entry into the country.
This includes: “Nationals of a third country with a valid European or French residence permit or long-stay visa, with a main residence in France or you are transiting through France to your main residence in a European Union country or equivalent country.”
Previously, this section had only accounted for third country nationals “with a main residence in France.”
Since Brexit came into effect, British citizens have been third country nationals and so should now be able to transit France to their main residence in another EU country.
Mrs Crabbe says that she is very relieved “because it was taking away our enjoyment of the visit. It was spoiling the rest of our time with our grandchildren because we were just wondering ‘are we going to get home?’ It was really awful.
“Our travel insurance is only 32 days and we are on medication and only had enough for our planned trip plus a day or two.
“But we’re feeling quite positive now.”
A Brittany Ferries spokesperson from the company confirmed to The Connexion that it has now updated its advice to EU residents hoping to transit through France following the rule change.
France’s official government spokesperson Gabriel Attal has said that the government will discuss the possibility of lifting the Covid restrictions currently in place for travellers coming from the UK at its next Conseil de défense sanitaire Covid crisis meeting.
He did not however add when a decision might be reached.